Review: David Cook – ‘David Cook’

Posted: January 14th, 2008
Contributed By: Nick

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Release Date: November 18th, 2008 via 19 Recordings/RCA

Overview: Thousands upon thousands of people flock to the preliminary auditions for American Idol each year, feeling this is their shot at stardom. Amidst the freaks, the geeks, the hobos, the psychos, the hilarious, the ridiculous, and the downright hideous from the tryouts for the iconic show’s seventh season came a dude out of Oklahoma named David Cook. He belted out a rendition of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” which secured his golden ticket to Hollywood and just five short months later, Cook beat out David Archuleta and was crowned the 2008 winner of American Idol. Soon, David got to work on his RCA debut with producer Rob Cavallo, teaming up with the likes of Goo Goo Dolls front-man Johnny Rzeznik, Our Lady Peace vocalist Raine Maida, and producer Brian Howes to help pen the effort. On November 18, 2008, David Cook’s eponymous debut hit stores, moving 280,000 copies in its first seven days. ‘David Cook‘ has achieved gold certification for sales in excess of 500,000, and the disc’s lead single “Light On” is picking up speed at top 40 radio.

The Good: David Cook won American Idol for a reason-the brotha can sing. And it’s his pipes that make this album a pile of goodness. The opener “Declaration” sets a solid vibe for the record, a perky and pulsating anthem that gets you involved. However David Cook waits until track two, the Mark Tremonti-inspired “Heroes” arrives before he starts proving the worth of his prize-winning vocals. He has an interestingly unique voice indeed, blending friendly and inviting melodic sensibilities with bold, masculine overtones; and directly because of said gift, “Heroes” could come out of nowhere to be a huge hit. Lead single “Light On”, written alongside Brian Howes is sultry and impassioned, with David Cook’s sips from the Chris Cornell fountain adding strokes of color. “Come Back to Me” is breezy and angelic. The drastic chord change/arrival of the orchestra on the downbeat heading into the bridge of “Come Back to Me” is absolute money. Cook borrows the surging “Bar-Ba-Sol” from the book of former Island/Def Jam artist Injected. Originally intended to appear on Injected’s never released sophomore album ‘The Truth About You’, “Bar-Ba-Sol” is rehashed flawlessly by David Cook and company, carefully preserving the intent of its original authors; this gritty 6/8 number gradually blossoms from a quirky shoe-gazer into an explosive rocker. Atmospheric and, well, sensitive is “Mr. Sensitive”, whose especially delicate verses animate its nametag nicely. “Lie” is a fluid balance of doleful and hopeful moods, with David Cook’s humility and a radiant chorus the real showstoppers. Cook’s delivery is also king on the consistent “I Did It For You”, exalting the chorus in the way DC wraps his lyrics so snugly around the beat. One of the most organic songs on ‘David Cook‘ is the sincere and whimsical “Avalanche”, which glistens with purity, freedom, and pinpoint dynamics. The final stand on the album is realized with a pair of songs, “A Daily AntheM” and “Kiss on the Neck” condensed into one quarter-hour filibuster. “A Daily AntheM” is lighthearted, fresh, and buoyed by a booming chorus. Zip forward 12:21 deep to ignite “Kiss on the Neck”, the blasting back-end of the doubleheader. David Cook turns up the heat and the caffeine as he torpedoes through one last stand, which will brand its lip prints into your senses rather than gently graze your neck.

David Cook’s finest moments are realized in two songs not yet mentioned, “Life on the Moon” and “Permanent”. Cook, as well as songwriting titans Espionage and Zac Maloy contributed ink to “Life on the Moon”, the craftiest and most well-written tune on the record. Davey C soaks it with conviction, lifting the storybook poetics off the page and into your mind. The chorus is huge and instantly addictive and some of the guitar work reminds me of “Sunny Came Home” by Shawn Colvin, a cool song and an even cooler allusion. What really separates “Life on the Moon” from the pack is the way the guitars hop, taking command of the rhythm and pumping heaps of vigor into the track in the process. The other diamond is “Permanent”, a fierce piano ballad. Written as his response to his older brother Adam’s arduous fight with brain cancer, a cathartic and spiritual David Cook opens up, offering listeners a touching and inspirational glimpse into his most vulnerable side. “Permanent” is simply put, special.

The Bad: Starting from the top, we’ll begin with “Light On”. While the song itself isn’t weak, I’m just not convinced that it was the right choice to launch David Cook and this album. In fact, I’m still having a tough time trying to figure out exactly which song would have made the best first single. “Come Back to Me” has several high points, but they are all unfortunately squandered because of how drowsily pedestrian the core of “Come Back to Me” is. The chorus of “Mr. Sensitive” is somewhat abrasive and really impedes the song’s flow. Dynamically, “Lie” is dead on until it decides to ripen too far ahead of schedule about halfway through. Drummer Dorian Crozier should have stayed on the ride instead of switching over to open hi-hats. Crozier returns to the ride for the outro which forfeits the big, titanic ending “Lie” is setup to have. I think “Lie” has slight potential to cause a stir but there’s not enough emphasis on the chorus’ hooks to do said thought any justice. “A Daily AntheM” is incredibly dressed up and there’s not one attempt made to cover this up. Strip “A Daily AntheM” down to its bare bones and you’ve got one dull tune. “I Did It For You” is my least favorite track. It sounds scary close to “Stop and Stare” by OneRepublic; and I hate that song, so put two and two together and now you know why. I’m also not the biggest fan of “The Time of My Life”, because it sounds too overly-animated and geared to sell corporate product (see Nickelback’s new song “Never Gonna Be Alone” for another example). Ironically, the biggest thing holding David Cook’s new record back is the fact that he won American Idol. I was trying not to compare David Cook’s album with Chris Daughtry’s but low and behold here I am. Daughtry’s 2006 debut had some balls for a pop-rock album. Because he didn’t seal a victory on his American Idol season five run, he wasn’t nearly as subjected to tailor-making an album for an audience as the winners of the show are. Enter David Cook’s album that, although spearheaded by another so-called “rocker” Idol contestant, is manufactured to be pop and pretty much ONLY pop. And this is unfortunate, because his heavier songs like “Bar-Ba-Sol” and “Kiss on the Neck” are extremely tight and extremely good. Why?-Because this is clearly David Cook’s comfort zone. Point being is that taking Cook out of his comfort zone and making him sing to the tune of album sales and commercial accessibility really stifles what he could have potentially done with this album; fortunately for everyone involved, D to tha C is talented enough to bridge this gap.

Bottomline: In a nutshell, David Cook is an extraordinary vocalist with an ordinary album that will still rack up extraordinary sales numbers, regardless of how good, bad, or shittastic the record may be. And that my friends is the American Idol stigma hard at work once again.

TuneLab Rating: 7 out of 10